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Does serious guilt influence dreams? Whether the guilt is warranted by one’s past grave sinfulness, or due to scrupulosity, or both? How does one know if a dream is a strictly physical (this may not be the right word), or whether it is from God, or whether it is some type of demonic manipulation?
     Since I returned to the Church several years ago, I have confessed many times. The pain of thinking about my past life is overwhelming, even though I know in my intellect that I have been forgiven. I feel awful inside, as if I don’t really believe I’ve been forgiven.
     My dream last night: I was in a place that to me seemed like hell. Dark with a reddish tint, loud, and petrifying. I was seeing a family member being tormented, though I don’t know who it was. I was told by someone with a chilling and stern voice to go back to bed and just watch and listen to the torment. I woke up feeling afraid and awful, my heart was beating extremely fast.
     Because my dream was related to my family, I will say that my family members for the most part left the Church and are either unchurched or have gone to a Protestant megachurch. My father, at 92 still alive and remarried after my mother passed, is still Catholic but has adopted much of the modernist theology, especially since remarrying. I often wonder why I seem to be the only one in the family who clung to the faith and continues to cling, yet I am by far the worst eligible candidate, the biggest sinner.
     FYI, the pastor at my parish helped me much back when everything changed in my life. I stayed close to him with weekly confession for the 6 months after my conversion, receiving encouragement and advice along with the great benefit of his prayers. He has been transferred since. While he was here, he offered me an opportunity for continued spiritual direction. But I never took him up on it. had been through seemingly so much, I was exhausted. I guess I was afraid of what he might ask me to do. I regret that I ignored such an opportunity.

Treams can have many underlying causes, and we often cannot discern what any particular cause of a dream may be. A dream could be a product of your own personal psychological experience, it could be a product of divine inspiration, it could be a product of diabolical influence, or it could result from a combination of any of these possibilities. Nevertheless, you don’t have to be stymied by this sort of uncertainty because a good interpretation of a dream does not rely so much on an intellectual explanation as on an emotional explanation.

In your dream, the core emotional element is signified by the command to “just watch and listen to the torment.” In that command, the real fear that you experienced was in your helplessness to do anything to stop the torment you were witnessing. It doesn’t matter whether you actually had a vision of demons tormenting other persons, or whether you had a vison of God showing you this torment as a spiritual warning, or whether the dream was a graphic image from your unconscious lamenting the sad state of your family; all that really matters is that the message of the dream is the truth of your helplessness.

Thus the dream seems to be telling you that although you have repented your past sinful behavior, you have no power to make anyone else of your acquaintance repent his or her sins. This can be especially painful for you because you hurt many persons in the past because of your own sins, and, now that you have seen the light about your behavior, you would like to save others from their sins.

Sadly, we cannot “save” other persons from doom. Our first spiritual task is to save ourselves through contrition and repentance and to resolve to love only God and to avoid sin. Then, through the example of our living a holy lifestyle, we can hope to be an example to others. But whether others heed our example and change their lives is entirely up to their free will. Sadly again, many persons make the mistake of believing that their salvation depends on “fixing” or saving others; consequently, their focus is on the behavior of others and, in so focusing on others they neglect to look inside themselves to achieve true inner transformation of their own lives.

Moreover, it seems likely that your fear of looking inside yourself may have been the motive for not accepting the offer of continued spiritual direction.

All in all, it seems that your dream is telling you that it’s necessary to not focus on saving others and instead to bear the pain of looking inside yourself to face your deepest helplessness.


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